|My class taking our class picture with Lex during last month’s Hangout!
We all have many thoughts every day and those thoughts usually come with our own biases or pre-judgements. Often those thoughts change when given a chance to “see” something from the other side. I’m Jennifer Regruth, a Classroom Champions teacher and my class and I are very lucky to be connected with our Athlete Mentor, Lex Gillette, an incredible track star, who happens to be blind. He lost his sight at age 10 and has become an amazing athlete – but just as importantly, an amazing person.
As a teacher, formative assessments are powerful – they will tell you what the kids know before a lesson, and what progress, if any, they have made after it. At the beginning of the year, I decided to do this with the idea of blindness. I asked them to write a quick paragraph: “What do you think of when you think of a blind person?”
Their responses varied a little, but basically they felt sorry for people who were blind, were happy they are not blind, guessed that blind people were scared, knew that you should help people who can’t see, or thought of them as “being trapped in a dark world.” I collected and kept these papers.
Fast forward to a few months of communicating with Lex later. After swapping videos, tweets, pictures and having a Hangout (live video chat) with Lex our understanding began to change. Through Lex’s use of Google Glass we were even able to watch his world ‘through his eyes’ while he trained, played the piano, shot hoops, and used his iPhone and Macbook! (click here to check out all of his recordings ‘through his eyes’.
We often tweeted a Question of the Day to Lex, (my students were so curious about his day to day living: ie. How do you know if your clothes match? how do you do laundry?) to which he gracefully and quickly replied to every single one, which thrilled all of us.
What a difference this connection has made!
These quotes directly from the kids tell it best. I will include a few:
Damen: When I think of a blind person now, I think of Lex-how he set his goals and he is trying to reach them.
Brandon: I don’t feel that scared if I went blind, because, like Lex said, “Blindness just might be another way to see.”
Daetona: I have learned a good lesson about don’t judge people by how they look or why they look like it.
Breanna: …and you don’t worry about what something really looks like-you judge by heart…
Isaac: Blind people can do whatever they choose to do.
Katya: I don’t think you can be blind. You see right through a person- who they are.
Aiden: NEVER judge a book by its cover. I HATE when people are labeled, so I think blind people are the same of me or anyone else. Having Lex made me change my mind about people.
Elanis: There is nothing different about blind people except they can’t see-they can do everything we can do.
Rylin: I think even though Lex is blind, he can actually see with his mind.
Savannah: Now I’m not so sorry anymore. I can’t believe what I can learn from blind people.
Brooke: I learned when you are blind, you can still get around, you just have different tools!
Faithe: Really there is nothing called disabled. If you can see from your heart and feel from your heart, you can do anything! Why? Well, the heart is the most powerful thing because without a heart, how can you love, and love is the biggest thing in the world. Lex is the best example for that because, really WHO NEEDS SIGHT WHEN YOU HAVE A VISION! Thank you, Lex, for teaching me that.
I was completely blown away by their insight and heart. I honestly don’t know who is most affected by this remarkable Classroom Champions program: the children, the athlete, or me. We have all grown, changed our thinking, and learned new things. I couldn’t be happier for me or my students that we are lucky enough to be involved with Classroom Champions and connected to someone as inspirational as Lex. Remember, it’s never too late to change your mind… sometimes you just have to give yourself the opportunity. #DreamBig
Margaret R. Brown Elementary, 4th grade